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Friday, July 08, 2005

Reason vs. Dogma

Here's a piece that I came across in the Times of India, Bangalore, yesterday, the 6th of June, 2005. It's by a Swami Parthasarathy. I'm going to recreate the piece in it's entirety here so that you can read it and appreciate it for its simplicity. It talk about 'vedanta' as a way of life rather than a set of doctrines. So, without much further ado:

Reason and not Dogma is the Basis of Vedanta
by Swami Parthasarathy

Vedanta is scientific exposition of truth. It expounds the truth methodically, logically. It does not rely on the authority of a preceptor. Its truth is its authority. No master or messiah can claim it. No religion has a hold on it. It belongs to one and all. It bears no distinction of caste or creed, community or country. Its universal application appeals to all lovers of truth.

Present religious systems are governed by personalities, maxims and mandates. There is a saying: Grammar is the grave of the language. Try to save grammar, keep it invariable, and language will be dead. Just so, the rigidity of preceptors and precepts saps the vitality of religion. The intelligentsia, particularly youth the world over, detest rigidity. They do not wish to be dictated by doctrines and dogmas. They revolt against such unnatural education.

We need to look at Vedanta in its pristine glory. Make an independent assessment of truth without relying on authorities.

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that the most intelligent person he had met in his life was his tailor, "Because he is the only one who takes fresh measurements every time I go to him". This should be our approach to Vedanta. We tend to let ourselves get hypnotized by views and opinions of others. Even the intelligentsia have been accepting religious doctrines and dogmas passively.

Some accept a religious belief just because it is the oldest. Others accept it only because it is followed by vast numbers. Still others accept it because it comes from a great personality. Few get to the merit of teaching. Much less imbibe the spirit of the religion. There is a blind following everywhere. Such an approach to religion has brought about a spiritual epidemic. It is practically destroying the human race.

If religion is to serve people it has to be judged and accepted on its own merit. Not on authorities. The study of Vedanta will reveal to you that it is founded on its own authority. It is based on reason and logic. You must, therefore, approach Vedanta as you would science or mathematics.

A faith founded on authority is no faith. Take up Vedanta on its own merits. Do not allow the personality and life of a spiritual master interfere with his teaching. Only then you will be able to enter into the spirit of religion.

You do not have to sell your liberty to a spiritual guru. The gurus drew their inspiration from their own Self. The same fountainhead of inspiration is within you. You can do the same. There is no use relying on external forces for gaining internal strength.

There is a general belief that one has to retire to the solitude of the forests for the study and practice of Vedanta, to lead the life of an ascetic. This is not true.

Vedanta does not expect anyone to live a life of resignation. It is not a retirement plan but a technique of dynamic living.

Extracted from Swami Parthasaraty's The Eternities: Vedanta Treatise.

And there it is. I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't studied religion, especially the Hindu religion, formally. Yet, as I live in India now, well, also that I'm more aware and able to think for myself, I find the wisdom of old is truly brilliant. Then, I sit and wonder about how as we move forward we're moving backward. Lots of thoughts on this...not at the moment though...I'd like to hear what others have to say about this first.

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